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Well,I thought that I would begin a thread to start getting more response from all of our knowlegeable contributors.
I have been a pitching instructor for 21 years now. Almost from the very onset, I learneed that there are certain pitches that are foundational pitches and others that are used as more periferal pitches. Having learned this from such coaches as Ron Bouldin, Mike Candrea, Doug Gillis, and Nancy Evans, I have formed my instruction with this in mind. There are 4 foundational pitches, that is the pitches that should be relied on 70-90% or more of the time. They are Fast-ball, Changeup, dropball, and Riseball. The higher level of play, the less a FB is used.
Curves and screws are extension pitches that should be used sparingly and only when the situation calls for it. This logic has 2 rationale:
1) True Curves and screwballs are designed to break laterally but not vertically. Simple physics tells us that verical break has a greater effect because of the width of the bat and the plane of the swing. Batters now-a-days are very good at keeping their bat on the same plane of the pitch for a long time during the swing. In order for the lateral pitch to be truely effective, it must break significantly. I would say a minimum of 12-17 inches is needed to clear the swing path unless you pitch in tight. But a vertical breaking pitch need only break a few inches to be extremely effective.
2) This is a far more important reason. Both of these pitches, particularly the screwball is VERY hard on a pitchers shoulder and elbow. I will not even teach these to a pitcher younger than 13 years old, because their joints are still growing at a significant rate. Anyone who has thrown a significant number of these pitches knows the pressure that is placed on the joints in order to get a break. Additionally, the body has to be placed in an awkward position that causes a lean, and I believe stress on the back and hips.
When I moved here, there was a prevelence of curves and screwballs being taught. I can only reason that it was because they are easy pitches to learn, they move alot, and can be used to move batters back from the plate (although there is nothing quite like a high tight FB or RB to back a batter off).
Shoulder and elbow injuries over the years to pitchers who have thrown far too many of these pitches has reinforced my belief that they should be used ONLY after the FOUNDATIONAL pitches are mastered.
It was my decision many years ago that I would not put a players well being at stake for W's. On top of that the alternative is far more effective if used and taught properly.
Everything that I am writing about is based on my experience and learning from top level coaches. There are , of course, varying opinions, and experiences, and I do not pretend to know everything, but this is my concern.